2008 MV Agusta F4 R 312 - First Ride - High-Rollin' Rocketship

From Italy With Love, The World's Fastest Production Motorcycle

By Roland Brown, Photography by Milagro

Howling down Monza's long front straight, I'm anxious to discover just how close this breathed-on MV will get to the advertised 312-kph (194-mph) top speed that gave it its name. As I flash past the pit lane exit and click into top gear with the bike still pulling hard, I watch the digital speedo count upward: 181...182...183...

Then I glance up and-AAARGH!!!-my braking marker flashes past and I'm hard on the Brembos and treading down four gears, rushing toward the tight right-hander faster than normal. That's what happens if you look away even for a moment when riding what is claimed to be the fastest motorbike in the world. Despite my failure to reach said speed, the F4 R 312 presumably lives up to that title because MV sees no reason to abide by the manufacturers' agreement that limits production Hayabusas and ZX-14s to 300 kph (186 mph). Politics be damned: MV is Italian and the Italians have a national imperative to make their bikes as fast as possible.

Said to produce 183 horsepower, this is the most powerful version of the firm's 998cc motor yet. The 312 is essentially a breathed-on version of the current F4 1000 R, pumping out 9 extra bhp thanks to titanium intake valves that are enlarged from 28mm to 30mm and controlled by stronger springs, along with intake and exhaust cams with more aggressive profiles to give extra lift. The throttle bodies of the Weber-Marelli fuel-injection system are enlarged from 46mm to 48mm, and the intake trumpets are 10mm shorter than those of the 1000 R, boosting top-end at the expense of bottom-end power. The rest of the bike remains unchanged: the same steel tube/aluminum composite frame, 50mm Marzocchi inverted fork, Sachs shock and Brembo radial brakes; even the gorgeous, Tamburini-sculpted bodywork is unchanged.

The slippery track meant a cautious first session, but the MV still managed to show some pace. The EFI responded with a crispness that made the bike easy to ride even in the wet, and the hotted-up motor still seemed reasonably flexible even at lower revs. The sweet-shifting cassette gearbox made it easy to keep the revs up, but the MV had enough grunt to pull hard with the analog tach's needle at 9000 rpm or below. Of course, it was much more fun when the track dried out later that day. The 312 felt stunningly fast hammering out of the third-gear Ascari chicane, and it made impressively short work of the famed Parabolica, too, thanks to a chassis that, though a bit heavy by supersport standards, is still very effective.

Even in mixed conditions the 312 showed that it's on par with the Japanese in terms of racetrack performance, as well as pure speed. Inevitably it's expensive compared to those Japanese rivals, and for most riders the barely slower and more flexible R-model arguably makes more sense. But then the F4 R 312 isn't about making sense-it's about being the fastest production motorbike in the world.

Tech Spec
EvolutionIntroduced as a 750 in 1999, the F4 grew to 1000cc for 2004, sprouted beefier forks, radial brakes and a bit more power to become the F4 1000 R last year, and now makes enough power to go 312 kph (194 mph).

Rivals
Aesthetically, nothing. Viscerally, only the Ducati 1098. Functionally, a horde of far less expensive Japanese 1000s.

Tech
Price: $24,995
Engine type: l-c inline-four
Valve train: DOHC, radial 16v
Displacement: 998cc
Bore x stroke: 76.0 x 55.0mm
Compression: 13.1:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Transmission: 6-speed, cassette
Horsepower: 183 bhp @ 12,400 rpm
Torque: 85 lb.-ft. @ 10,000 rpm
Frame: Steel trellis with aluminum pivot plates and single-sided swingarm
Front suspension: 50mm Marzocchi inverted cartridge fork, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension: Single Sachs shock, adjustable for spring preload, high/low-speed compression and rebound damping, ride height
Front brake: Dual Brembo four-piston radial calipers, 320mm discsRear brake: Single Brembo four-piston caliper, 210mm discFront tire: 120/70 ZR17 Pirelli Dragon Supercorsa ProRear tire: 190/50 ZR17 Pirelli Dragon Supercorsa ProRake/trail: 24.5o/4.1 inSeat height: 31.9 in.Wheelbase: 55.4 in.Fuel capacity: 5.5 gal.Dry weight: 423 lbs.Colors: Black, black and white, red and silverAvailable: NowWarranty: Two years, unlimited mi.Contact: www.mvagustausa.com

Verdict
Powerful, agile, beautiful, Italian and almost assuredly the fastest motorbike in the world.

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